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Taiwan Changes Entrance Exams to Promote Innovation

FILE - Junior high students study in a small cram school in hopes of success on their high school entrance exams, in Taipei, Taiwan.
FILE - Junior high students study in a small cram school in hopes of success on their high school entrance exams, in Taipei, Taiwan.

Taiwan’s annual university admissions tests are taking place this week. Tens of thousands of students are trying to give the right answers to math and language questions. High scores permit students to enter the top schools.

However, these tests will not be in place for much longer. The current examinations require that students memorize facts in high school classes. They do not test critical thinking or creative problem solving abilities.

Officials in Taiwan plan to change the admissions test to also measure imagination and the ability to innovate.

Taiwanese officials see the progress China and South Korea are making in the information technology field. By comparison, Taiwan is losing technology business. There is concern that younger people are afraid of the risk of starting a company or inventing something.

The Ministry of Education wants to encourage young Taiwanese to innovate. So, it will begin a new selection process for university students. They hope the best schools will start to accept people with new business ideas.

The new admissions policy will take effect in 2018. It will include personal interviews with interested students. The Ministry wants high school graduates to show they excelled outside of class.

Ma Hsiang-ping is the ministry’s deputy director for higher education. She told VOA the new exam system will look for people interested in invention or starting businesses.

She said Taiwan will lose competitiveness if all the inventing is done in other countries. She said the ministry hopes new admissions policies will reshape the 12-year public education system. She said is should not focus only on memorization of facts but also on the growth of other skills. Ms. Ma said that the written admissions test should be used only to show that a student has basic knowledge.

Chang Wei-chun is a third-year law student at Ming Chuan University in Taipei. The student said Taiwan’s educational reforms should carry into higher education.

Chang Wei-chun said that officials should promote innovation in classes at universities. The student said many students will not risk doing inventive work because their university education remains traditional.

Taiwan is dependent largely on high-tech exports. The Swiss business school, International Institute for Management Development (IMD) made a list of the most competitive countries in 2014. Taiwan was at number 13, but Singapore was number 3 and Hong Kong was number 4. These numbers worry Taiwanese officials.

About 300,000 students graduate each year from the almost 150 universities in Taiwan. The results of this year’s exams will decide the admissions of 146,000 people. Many are seeking admission to the 10 highest-rated schools.

I'm Jill Robbins.

Correspondent Ralph Jennings reported this story from Taipei, Taiwan. Jill Robbins wrote it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

annual - adj. happening once a year

innovatev. to do something in a new way; to have new ideas about how something can be done

encourage - v. to make (something) more appealing or more likely to happen

selection - n. the act of choosing something or someone from a group

excel - v. to be better than others

competitiveadj. of or relating to a situation in which people or groups are trying to win a contest or be more successful than others; relating to or involving competition

promote v. to help (something) happen, develop, or increase

Now it’s your turn. What do you think of the changes in Taiwan’s system of university entrance testing? How is it different from or the same as your country’s system for choosing university students? Write your comment below.